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old cairo

Old Cairo

Where is Old Cairo located?

Old Cairo, also known as Coptic Cairo, is located in the southern part of the modern city of Cairo, Egypt. It is situated on the east bank of the Nile River, just south of the downtown area of Cairo.

It is home to many important cultural and historical landmarks, including mosques, churches, and synagogues, that date back to ancient and medieval times.

Old Cairo is considered one of the city’s oldest and most significant areas, with a rich history that reflects the influences of various civilizations and empires that have ruled Egypt over the centuries.

Old Cairo is bounded by the walls of the Roman fortress of Babylon to the north and east, the medieval city of Cairo to the west, and the ancient city of Fustat to the south.

The area is easily accessible by public transportation, including buses and the Cairo Metro. It is near several other major tourist attractions, including the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum.

History of Old Cairo

Old Cairo is a unique and fascinating area with a rich history dating back thousands of years. From its origins as a center of Christian activity in ancient Egypt to its transformation into a thriving Islamic and commercial center during the medieval and Ottoman periods, Old Cairo has played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of Egypt and the Middle East.

Its remarkable blend of religious and cultural influences sets Old Cairo apart from other historic areas. The area is home to some of the oldest and most significant mosques, churches, and synagogues in Egypt,

each reflecting the diverse and often interconnected religious traditions that have shaped the region over time.

Visitors to Old Cairo can explore its many landmarks and monuments, including the famous Hanging Church, the Mosque of Amr Ibn al-As, and the Ben Ezra Synagogue.

They can also wander through the winding streets and alleys of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, where they can experience the vibrant sights, sounds, and flavors of this unique and historic area.

Overall, the history of Old Cairo is a testament to the enduring legacy of the many cultures and civilizations that have passed through the region over the centuries and to the resilience and adaptability of the people who have called it home.

Coptic cairo

The Coptic quarter is part of Old Cairo; it houses many Christian churches and other sites dating from the period between the decline of the Pharaonic religion

and the arrival of Islam when Egypt was predominantly Christian. Coptic Cairo is primarily built around Fort Babylon, on the remains of its walls.

The Coptic Museum is located there, which includes the most extensive collection of Coptic Christian art and artifacts worldwide. Founded in 1910, the museum presents Coptic history

from the arrival of Christianity in Egypt to the Ottoman era. The works of art on display reveal the artistic mix, influenced by Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman traditions.
Six churches dating from the beginnings of the Christian era are there. The hanging Church, also called the Church of the Virgin Mary, was built in the 9th century and rested on the walls of the fort of Babylon.
The construction of ground levels around the walls now diminishes the effect of this “suspended” Church. Further, in the Coptic quarter, other significant churches can be visited, such as the Church of Saint Sergius,
which dates from the 5th century and is said to have been built on the site of an old crypt where the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, took shelter during his stay in Egypt.
Even further, you will find the Synagogue of Ben Ezra. It is the oldest synagogue in Cairo, built in the 9th century, which is claimed to be the site of the Temple of Jeremiah or the place where the Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses among the reeds.

Coptic Landmark in old cairo

old cairo

The Hanging Church:

The Hanging Church, also known as the Church of the Virgin Mary, is an iconic attraction in Old Cairo. This ancient Coptic Church is built on top of the ruins of two Roman fortresses and is known for its unique hanging appearance.

The Coptic Museum:

The Coptic Museum is a must-visit destination for history lovers. It has an extensive Coptic art and artifacts collection, including textiles, icons, and manuscripts.

The Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus:

The Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, believed to have been built on the site where the Holy Family stayed during their flight to Egypt. Its unique architectural style and historical significance make it a popular attraction.

Islamic Cairo

Islamic Cairo is the historical heart of the city. When the Fatimid dynasty conquered Egypt in 969 AD, they built a new capital north of the town to set up their administrative center.

This new city, called Al-Qahira, meaning The Winner, gave the modern city its name of Cairo.

While today it no longer corresponds to the city center, Islamic Cairo has retained the life and atmosphere of its past. Most of the walls of the old city have been damaged and crumbled, but hundreds of monuments and splendid mosques remain, which line the arteries of Al-Qahira. Islamic Cairo stands out from many other historic districts because it is still lively today.

Although Al Qahira was studded with palaces and administrative buildings when it came into existence, subsequently, the people of Cairo moved within its walls during the siege of the 12th century and are not never left. Although its architecture is mainly in ruins and its infrastructure ancient,

Visiting Islamic Cairo can be a daunting task. It is a relatively large area, including the ancient Fatimid city to the Citadel of Salah al-Din in the south and the Ibn Tulun Mosque. A hundred sites of different sizes and importance can be admired along these narrow streets. It will also be necessary to consider that this district’s abundant commercial and residential life is significant.

Islamic Landmark in Old Cairo

old cairo

Numerous Islamic landmarks in Cairo reflect the city’s long and rich history as an important center of Islamic civilization. Here are some of the most famous and significant Islamic landmarks in Cairo:

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun:

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is one of Cairo’s oldest and most impressive mosques. Built-in the 9th century, it features stunning architectural design and is in a tranquil courtyard.

The Al-Azhar Mosque:

The Al-Azhar Mosque is an important Islamic institution and a stunning architectural marvel. It’s a rich history, and cultural significance makes it a must-visit attraction in Old Cairo.

The Citadel of Salah Al-Din:

One of the most precious jewels for the tourism that visits Cairo was built between 1176 and 1183 with a fundamental objective: to protect the city from the attacks of the Crusades. And today, it is not only a fundamental point with privileged views but also a nucleus of palaces, museums, and mosques that are essential on your trip.

The Al-Hussein Mosque:

The Al-Hussein Mosque, Located in the heart of Islamic Cairo, it is believed to contain the head of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and a revered figure in the Islamic faith.

The mosque was built in the 12th century on the site of an older mosque that had been destroyed. It has undergone many renovations and expansions over the centuries, with the current structure dating back to the 19th century.

Visitors can admire the mosque’s beautiful Islamic architecture and intricate designs, including its intricately carved wooden screens, stained glass windows, and colorful tiles. The mosque’s main prayer hall is adorned with chandeliers and decorated with calligraphy and geometric patterns.

The Al-Rifa’i Mosque

The Al-Rifa’i Mosque, Located in the heart of the city, near the Citadel of Salah El-Din, it is known for its impressive size and architectural beauty. It serves as the final resting place for members of the royal family and other prominent figures.

The mosque was initially built in the 12th century but was later rebuilt in the 19th century by the orders of Khedive Ismail; the mosque blends architectural styles, combining elements of Ottoman, Mamluk, and Islamic revivalist architecture. Its impressive facade features a row of intricate arches, and its minarets are adorned with ornate details and designs.

One of the most notable features of the Al-Rifa’i Mosque is its royal mausoleum, which houses the tombs of members of the Egyptian royal family, including King Farouk and his family.

The Museum of Islamic Art:

The Museum of Islamic Art is a world-renowned institution showcasing an impressive collection of Islamic art and artifacts across the Middle East and North Africa.

Judaism in Old Cairo

Jewish synagogues have a long history in Old Cairo, once home to a thriving Jewish community.
The synagogues in Old Cairo were not only places of worship but also served as important cultural institutions. They housed libraries and archives that preserved the community’s history and literature.

They were also centers of learning, where rabbis and scholars taught the community’s youth about Jewish traditions and texts.

Despite the decline of the Jewish community in Old Cairo over the centuries, some of the synagogues have survived. They stand as reminders of the rich history and culture of the Jewish community in Egypt and the broader Middle East.

Judaism landmarks in old cairo

The Ben Ezra Synagogue:

The Ben Ezra Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in Egypt, dating back to the 9th century. Its unique structure and rich history make it a fascinating attraction for visitors.

Adly Street Synagogue

Adly Street Synagogue, also known as the Sha’ar Hashamayim Synagogue, is one of the few active synagogues in Cairo today. It was built in the 1890s on Adly Street in Downtown Cairo and has undergone several renovations.

Adly Street Synagogue is a hub of Jewish life in Cairo, hosting regular prayer services, events, and educational programs for the Jewish community. It is also open to visitors, who can learn about the synagogue’s history and traditions and the Jewish community in Egypt.

The synagogue has survived many changes and challenges, including political upheavals and waves of emigration. Still, it remains an important landmark and a symbol of the resilience of the Jewish community in Cairo.

The Synagogue of the Prophet Elijah

Also known as the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue; the synagogue is named after the biblical prophet Elijah. The temple is one of the oldest in Cairo, dating back to the 14th century, and is believed to have been built on the site of an older temple.

The synagogue features traditional Jewish architecture and design, with a central bimah, or pulpit, and separate sections for men and women. The walls are adorned with Hebrew inscriptions and decorative motifs, including stars of David and menorahs. The women’s division is located upstairs and is separated from the men’s section by a wooden screen.

The synagogue has undergone several renovations, including a significant restoration in the 1990s that repaired the damage caused by flooding. It is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Jewish community in Cairo and a reminder of the long and complex history of religious diversity in Egypt.

Cultural Landmarks in Old Cairo

old cairo

Al-Azhar Mosque:

One of the world’s oldest and most influential Islamic institutions, the Al-Azhar Mosque was founded in the 10th century and remained a center of learning and scholarship. The mosque features beautiful architecture, including a massive minaret and an ornate entrance gate.

Babylon Fortress:

Located on the eastern bank of the Nile, Babylon Fortress is an ancient Roman fortress that dates back to the 1st century AD. The Byzantines and the Islamic armies later used the fortress, and is now a popular tourist destination, offering visitors a glimpse into the history of ancient Egypt.

Khan El Khalili Bazaar:

Located in the heart of Old Cairo, Khan El Khalili Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest markets in the Middle East. The bazaar features many shops and stalls selling everything from spices and textiles to jewelry and souvenirs.

Beit El Umma Museum:

This museum is dedicated to the life and legacy of Saad Zaghloul, a prominent Egyptian nationalist and political leader in the early 20th century. The museum is housed in a beautiful historic mansion and features a collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to Zaghloul’s life and work.

The Museum of Egyptian Civilization

The Museum of Egyptian Civilization (MEC) is a must-visit cultural landmark in Old Cairo that showcases the history and culture of ancient Egypt. This modern museum features a vast collection of artifacts

and exhibits that offer visitors an immersive experience of Egypt’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. From prehistoric times to the modern era, the museum takes visitors on a journey through time,

highlighting the significant contributions of ancient Egypt to the world. With state-of-the-art galleries, a collection of mummies, and an extensive collection of art and artifacts,

the Museum of Egyptian Civilization is an essential destination for anyone interested in the history and culture of this fascinating country.


As you can see, Cairo is a city that has a lot to offer. Its history dates back thousands of years, and it continues to be a place where people from all over the world come together to share their culture and religion.

The modern developments in Cairo may not be as well known as some other cities worldwide, but some fantastic things are happening here today!